Tuesday, December 20, 2011

CYHSB Steak Dinner

The high school boys put on another remarkable show last week, with their annual Steak Dinner.  A fundraiser for their activities budget, the Steak Dinner is a four-course sit-down meal (steak, of course) for three hundred people, replete with entertainment, a dvar Torah, and a tribute video, all of which - from grilling the steaks to choosing the nominee and from playing the music to washing the pots - is done by our high school students.  Certainly, Rabbi Gersten, our Mashgiach Ruchani, plays no small part in getting them organized and ready to roll.  As he pointed out at this year's event, the Steak Dinner is a wonderful example of 21st century learning in the sense that it requires significant collaborative efforts, it offers opportunities for creativity and differentiation, and it requires our students to solve real world problems in a high pressure, performance based, framework.  There is no doubt that in addition to the memories they accumulate from the Steak Dinner each year, the skills our students acquire in the process will also last them a lifetime.

Congratulations to Dr. Whitney Kennon for being the recipient of the boys' tribute this year!

Here are some of the sites and sounds for your enjoyment:

A Photo Story from our Four Year-Olds

 This is now the second year that our Early Childhood teachers have been using Photo Story in their classrooms.  This simple slide show software is a powerful way of honing the descriptive and articulation skills of our youngest children while introducing them to technology as a means of communication.  As you can see from this example by the four-year olds in our PreK-4, it's also a great way of bringing the stories of our Judaic Studies curriculum to life.  

Great job, Morah Raananah and Morah Debbie! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

High School Open House

Though it was a few weeks ago, I wanted to share with you the Prezi which we put together for our high school open house.  During the event itself, the Prezi was shown in a darkened room and following each of the videos, a spotlight turned to one of our high school students, perched upon a platform in the corners of the room, who spoke for a few moments about the topic represented in the video.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Month In Review

It's been almost a month since I last blogged and there is so much to catch up on I don't even know where to start.  Our students have been busier than ever and hardly a day has gone by without an exciting program or an inspiring moment, in at least one of our divisions.  Here a few of the highlights:

Last month we were visited by a representative from the Dixon Art Museum, who read The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kelly and then led our students in an exercise to try and mimic the Victorian artist's style. Shortly thereafter, our 6th grade launched its incredibly exciting ePals program. Harnessing the internet and the power of webcams, our students are having meaningful conversations and getting invaluable cross-cultural exposure with students in Italy, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uganda. It isn't every day that our middle class Jewish children in Memphis, Tennessee get to interact with gifted AIDS orphans in a small village in Africa.

For Thanksgiving our students all learned the lessons of gratitude and appreciation by reaching out to the less fortunate. From the elementary students who put together toiletry bags for the homeless to the high school girls who delivered them while giving up their own vacation time to volunteer at downtown shelter, there was a spirit of community outreach and social action throughout the school.

Our Middle School got into the giving spirit as well.  Keeping with what has become a wonderful tradition, our Middle School boys "took on" the students of the Shrine School in a "fierce" game of basketball.  For half of the game our students saw a game they knew well from a completely different perspective: seated in a wheelchair.  With students of all ages cheering them on, the Shrine students had the time of their lives notching another "victory" in their illustrious school record.

Reaching beyond the walls of our school and seeing the perspectives of others also played a significant role in the other classes this past month.  Both of our high schools visited the Memphis Public Library to see the Choosing to Participate exhibit created by Facing History and Ourselves.  Facing History, which has one of their national offices here in Memphis, is an organization dedicated to teaching students about the harms of racism, antisemitism, and prejudice around the world.  Several of our teachers have attended their training seminars and we have been most fortunate to benefit from their outstanding materials and programs.

 Our fourth grade also expanded its educational reach with a markedly 21st century twist.  As a new wrinkle in their traditional state fair program, the 4th grade set out to collect postcards from all 50 states.  In spreading the word, it was suggested that this may presented an opportune time to teach the 4th graders about the positive and educational power of social media.  I was invited to the classroom, along with our Tweeter in Residence, Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt, to show the students what Twitter was and how it gave us the power to instantly reach thousands of people with common interests across the globe.  Of course, we took the opportunity to talk to the 4th graders about the potential hazards of social media as well and insisted that they only use these types of forums with the help of an adult.

Believe it or not, that only begins to scratch the surface of all that has happened here over the past month, but at least it provides a small taste of the rich learning experiences in which our children are engaging.  I hope to return to far more regular blog posts after we return from our winter break.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cooper Invitational 2011

Sunday marked the end of another magical Cooper Invitational high school basketball tournament.  Fifteen teams and nearly 350 people from across the country descended upon our community to join our Cooper Macs and our Memphis Jewish community for four days of intense basketball, inspiring speakers, and unrivaled camaraderie.  Once again, Josh Kahane and his team of volunteers tended to all the logistics and ran an incredibly smooth operation thereby ensuring that the reputation of the Cooper Invitational - the tournament every Jewish high school basketball player in the country longs to be at - continues to grow.

Along with high profile, top tier NCAA coaches and former NBA players, one of the less known, but perhaps most inspiring personalities to address the tournament participants was Charlene Lerner.  Here's her story from ESPN.com:

Here are some more highlights from the weekend:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

MHA College Guidance Site

If you haven't yet seen it, be sure to check out our new College Guidance website created by Mrs. Tsuna, our Director of College Guidance.  It is chock full of important information regarding the college admissions process, Jewish life on campus, and options for a gap year in Israel.  This is but one way that Mrs. Tsuna is ensuring that students and parents alike stay on top of the multi-faceted and often arduous process of applying to school post high school and that students ultimately land up in the schools best suited for them.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Festival 2011

Our annual Fall Festival this past Sunday was a wonderful success.  Parents, grandparents, and children from across the community came together for a fun-filled day of hayrides, moon bounces, petting zoo, face painting, arts and crafts, and - new for this year - our scholastic book fair.  As the smiling faces in the video below attest, a good time was had by all!

Friday, November 4, 2011

U9 and U12 Soccer

As the soccer season draws to a close, I wanted to share some of the sights and sounds of what has been a terrific experience for so many of our kids.  Click on these links to visit the albums of our U9 team and our U12 Boys team.

Many thanks to Coach Nokes for making it happen!

C21: 6th Grade Joins ePals

Our 6th Graders, under the guidance of Mrs. Cindy Massey, recently joined the ePals global community.  They are already in contact with students their age China, Russia, Alaska, Lithuania, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uganda.

One of their first eye-opening discoveries was that one of the two classes they are in touch with in Uganda, a class of gifted students in an orphanage for children of AIDS victims,  is in a town that is largely without electricity.  As a result, our kids are going to have to learn some new tools in order to communicate with them: paper, pens, envelopes, and stamps.  They were also a bit taken aback when their new friends asked them whether we wear shoes to school - implying that they do not.

The lessons in cultural sensitivity, poverty, and global health crises which these relationships are teaching are immeasurable.  And they've only just begun.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Zionism Blog

I just added the class blog from Mrs. Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein's Girls High School Zionism class to my list of school blogs on the lower right column below.  Check out these thoughtful comments by our students regarding the release of Gilad Shalit.

Friday, October 28, 2011

C21: Project Based Learning in Pre-K3

The following is an article written for our school newsletter this week by Morah Barbara Kutner, our Pre-K3 teacher, describing how she and her assistant teacher, Ms. Katie Minner, brought Project Based Learning into their dual curriculum 3 year-old classroom as part of our Curriculum 21 initiative:  

The “Project Approach” is an in-depth study of a certain theme, incorporating children’s interests and ideas, which evolve into a concrete learning experience over time. After observing the “Project Approach“ in another school last year and discussing it in our inspirational workshops about “21st Century Learning” at In-Service, Ms Katie and I were very excited to try our first “Project Approach” about apples. The results were overwhelming. The timing was perfect. We were learning all about the customs of Rosh Hashana and of course the apple takes center stage. As Sukkot, the holiday of Harvest, drew near, our learning experiences continued to build upon each other.

One of our goals was to involve parents and strengthen the home-school connection. We sent home a survey asking parents to see which apple products they had in their home. The students were so excited to present their results to the class. We invited parents to share their best apple recipe with us and many came in to bake. The children loved having their parents in the classroom. One parent, who is a teacher, even brought her class with her. They acted as buddies with our kids and helped in the baking.

We made so many things from apples – applesauce, baked apples, apple kugel, and applesauce cake and of course dipped apples into honey! We learned math as we measured flour and sugar and enriched our vocabulary with new words such as recipe and ingredients. We made a Venn diagram comparing applesauce, which we cooked on top of the stove and the baked apples, which were made in the oven. We included many of these recipes in our class cookbook for the housekeeping corner.

Apple tasting and choosing our favorite apple provided the opportunity to do graphing. We examined apples and looked at all the parts. We became artists as we made a still life drawing of an apple and apple prints. We cut open an apple and were surprised to find a star inside, making a perfect holder for the seeds. We planted the seeds and are waiting for our apple tree to grow.

Making our giant paper tree gave us an opportunity to work together and use many skills. We searched on the computer for apple tree pictures. We talked about the parts of the apple tree and labeled them. The students decided how they wanted to decorate our tree.  We gathered real bark to glue on the trunk and some chose to do crayon rubbings to make a rough texture. We used our cutting skills to design our own leaves and sponge painted red apple shapes on the top.

We met together and discussed all of our activities, making charts and diagrams of all of our work. Come see our apple display hanging in the hall and you can catch a glimpse of all the exciting activities that took place as we explored all about apples. Collaborating together, science discovery , strengthening math concepts, expressing creativity in art, language development, parent involvement – all from one little apple. That’s the magic of the “Project Approach!”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kohelet Kickoff Event

Our second year in the Kohelet Fellowship Program officially kicked off on Monday with an orientation program at the JCC.  The program, funded by the Kohelet Foundation, provides tuition incentives to parents who participate in one of two adult education programs:  the Jewish Learning Institute run by Chabad or the Kohelet Conversations peer study program created by Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future.  

The orientation event brought 60 parents from our school and from the Bornblum Solomon Schechter to the Memphis JCC for an evening of communal Torah study.  After an introduction from Avi Narrow-Tilonsky, the CJF's liason for the Kohelet Fellowships Program, and a video message from David Magerman, president of the Kohelet Foundation, the group watched a trigger film about a Katrina victim who took his neighbor's boat and used it to save numerous lives.  When the boat went missing, though, the owner filed suit against his neighbor - "the hero" -  for having unlawfully taken his possession.  The next 45 minutes were spent in lively group discussion and analysis of traditional Jewish legal texts which explore the extent to which one is allowed to go in order to save a life and who bears the liability for damage incurred in the process.

Feedback from the evening was overwhelmingly positive and it set the stage for what we hope will be many more enjoyable and insightful encounters with Jewish texts and Jewish wisdom for these parents over the weeks and months ahead.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sukkah Building Competition

Another catch-up post...

One of my favorite pre-Sukkot events is our Boys High School sukkah building competition.  Instead of judging them on the carpentry or aesthetics, however, we judge them on the near misses - halachik near misses, that is.  

The competition begins with the boys spending considerable time  learning the intricacies of the laws of sukkah building with their teachers.  Then, their challenge is to construct a sukkah (just the walls, not the schach) which looks like it would not be permissible for a variety of reasons, but, in fact, uses various halachik provisions to ensure that it is.  

Below you can see their handy-work as well as a bit of the spontaneous Sukkot spirit which erupted from one of the groups.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Operational Dinner

Although it's a bit late, I'd be remiss if I didn't blog about our annual operational dinner.  Hosted again this year at the magnificent home of Dr. Joe and Cindi Weinstein, this yearly get-together which caps off our annual campaign, is always an inspiring event.  It is the night, more than any other, that we come together to celebrate the breathtaking culture of sacrificial giving which permeates our community, and the way in which our community understands that its future is tied directly to the future of Jewish education in our city.  Year in and year out, our little school puts far larger and far more affluent schools to shame with regard to the funds we raise - all without the help of a single fund raising professional.  Just an incredible group of volunteers whose tireless energy is matched only by their enormous hearts.

Here is a clip from the speech given by Josh Kahane, our Board President:

And some more pictures from the beautiful evening:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

C21: Videos for Next Generation

As Yom Kippur approaches, I wanted to share with you a rather unique experience I had with a group of our high school boys over the past six weeks and the rather inspirational results that emerged from it.

You can read all about it and watch what our students produced on the website I created for the project: www.bit.ly/SacksLetters. If you find it meaningful, please share it with others.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

C21: 12 Year-Old Teachers

Last week it was our 3rd grade and 6th grade who took a turn at experimenting with cross-grade collaboration.

At the beginning of the school year we rolled out Google Apps for Education for all of our teachers and students.  For our older students, already familiar with Microsoft Office, email, and many social networking sites, learning to navigate Google Apps was not much of a challenge.  In a matter of days we had teachers launching Google Sites, students collaborating on Google Docs, and flurries of Gmail criss-crossing our high schools and Jr. High.

For our third graders, however, it was all very new.  With the help of Mrs. Laura Malbogat, our C21 consultant, our 3rd grade teacher, Mrs.Lisa Lukien, and our 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Cindy Massey, devised a plan to provide each 3rd grader with a personalized tutorial on navigating the new technology: the 6th graders would teach them.

So, on Tuesday of last week, our 3rd graders paired up with their across-the-hall neighbors, the 6th graders, to complete an assignment designed to orient the 3rd graders to Google Apps and to help hone the 6th graders internet navigation skills.  The lesson began with the 6th grader helping his or her 3rd grade buddy to log on to Google Apps and access their Gmail.  Once they were in, they found an email waiting there from Mrs. Lukien, with instructions for an "internet scavenger hunt."  Together, the 3rd graders and 6th graders searched the internet for the information needed to complete their "hunt," and the 6th graders then showed their younger buddies how to enter their findings into a Google Doc and share it with others.

Once again it was exhilarating to watch how much student learning was happening, on how many different levels, all without any frontal presentation from any of the teachers involved.  They were there at all times and the learning could not have happened without them, but their role was markedly different than that traditionally assumed by teachers in a 20th century classroom.  They were there to structure the learning experience and to facilitate it, but it was the world wide web and their 12 year-old school mates who supplied the information.

High School Selichot

The geographic location of our school literally in the heart of our community, affords our students opportunities throughout the year to come together in ways that go well beyond what is traditionally thought of as school or even as extra-curricular activities.

One such occasion is selichot night. The combination of the late hour (selichot are traditionally recited at the midpoint between sundown and sunup on the Saturday night preceding Rosh Hashanah) and the ancient liturgy, makes the selichot experience in most shuls rather difficult for teens to relate to.  Therefore, a few years ago we began running programs for both our boys and our girls high schools in the hours leading up to selichot in order to make the experience more meaningful.

This year's program, designed by Rabbi Stein, started at 10:30 with pizza and ice cream in each of the respective schools.  Then, both sets of students watched a lengthy clip from Disney's The Lion King followed by a discussion about the teshuva-related themes which the film explores: running away from the past versus facing it, living up to expectations, changing course, and making up for past mistakes.  Each group then had a kumsitz to further set the mood and then finally, at 12:50am, the boys and girls came together in the Beit Midrash for selichot led by Rabbi Gersten.

Below you'll find some pictures from the program as well as a short video clip of the boys signing at their kumsitz.

Gemar chatimah tovah to all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

C21: Now You See It

Cathy Davidson's new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn, provides the most thoughtful, readable, and engaging work I have seen yet on the rationale behind and the need for 21st Century Learning.

Many of her main points are also covered in this lecture she gave recently at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  The lecture is good.  The book is better.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Playdough, YouTube, and the Hypothalamus

With their college textbooks laid out in front of them, a video of a dissection playing on the SMART Board, and playdough in their hands, our AP Psychology students in the GMSG set out to construct a brain...

Monday, September 19, 2011

What People in Wheelchairs Can Do (in Hebrew)

It is for moments like this that people enter the field of education.

When Morah Hemda informed her 4th grade Hebrew class that as part of their Tal Am unit on Ha-Kitah Ha-Me'uchedet (the cohesive class) their virtual classroom would include a character in a wheelchair and they'd learn just how much a wheelchair-bound person could do, one 4th grader got particularly excited.  She quickly let Morah Hemda know that her mother is wheelchair-bound and how little that stops her from doing.

Sensing a teachable moment, Morah Hemda asked the fourth grader if she'd be willing to prepare a powerpoint presentation for the class - in Hebrew, of course - on what life is like for her mother.  She excitedly obliged.

Below is a video of her presentation.  The only thing more remarkable than the display of her Hebrew skills, is the display of her courage.

Monday, September 12, 2011

C21: Collaborative Research In Kindergarten

What do camels, jaguars, and sharks have in common?  They were all the subjects of a collaborative research project launched today between our Kindergartners and their 5th Grade Buddies.

The 5th Grade Buddies program is something our teachers developed three years ago primarily as a means of giving our Kindergartners a familiar face in the "big kid" wing while exposing our 5th graders to meaningful communal service.  This year, however, Mrs. Lewter and Morah Michelle decided to give the program a 21st century twist.  The result was a stunning display of what 21st century learning is all about.

As part of the Kindergarten unit on families, each student was assigned an "animal family" from which they had to choose an animal to research.  While the concept of "research" was new for our Kindergartners - and while their inventive spelling would probably have left even Google perplexed - such was not the case for our 5th Graders.   So the Kindergartners were tasked with asking questions about their animals while their 5th grade Buddies used glossy picture-filled print pamphlets and our new laptops to walk them through the process of finding their answers.  If they ran out of questions or had trouble finding answers, one of the teachers was there to guide them along or to get them back on track.

Together the Kindergartners and 5th Graders examined articles and pictures on National Geographic, Kidzone, Wikipedia, and a host of other sites.  Together they identified fascinating facts about their animal and entered them into a Google Doc for everyone else to see.  Together they modeled for the rest of us what 21st century education ought to look like: collaborative learning driven by student interest and student inquiry in which teachers guide the information gathering process rather than dominating it.

Of course, this was only step one.  When the Kindergartners and their Buddies get back together next time, they'll take the information they've gathered and put it to good use.  So stay tuned for the next update.  In the  meantime enjoy the pictures and the video clip below.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rosh Chodesh in the GMSG

In what has now become a tradition, the high school students in the girls high school invited the junior high girls to join them for a festive davening and breakfast in honor of Rosh Chodesh. The GMSG students then spread out through the Memphis community to lend a hand to those in need. One group responded to an emergency appeal for volunteers from the Midsouth Food Bank. Another group engaged in mind stimulating activities with Alzheimer's sufferers at Dorothy's Place. The third group went to Dozier House, a rehabilitation facility for homeless drug addicts. At Dozier House the students and residents painted flower pots together and planted small plants for the residents to keep in their rooms. The girls learned a lot from hearing about the residents' struggles and about how helpful it is for them to interact with young people who care.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bouncing in Bio

As I walked past a high school bio class last week I noticed that the kids were literally bouncing.  They were out of their seats, jumping up and down, and running around the classroom.  Thinking something was amiss, I walked into the classroom to see what was going on.  It was only then that I noticed the kids with thermometers in their mouths, those hooked up to blood pressure machines, those taking their pulse, and those furiously scribbling data on their worksheets.  It turns out I had walked into a skillfully orchestrated lab in which Dr. Soellner was teaching our boys (she had done the same thing with our girls earlier that morning) about homeostasis by having them measure their blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature before and after exercising in order to demonstrate the human body's capacity to adjust to new circumstances.

Here's a glimpse at what it looked like:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opening Mishmar

The CYHSB Beit Midrash was ringing with kol Torah last night as high school boys, their fathers, their rebbeim, and a host of community members came out for our first mishmar of the year.  Everyone spent the first twenty minutes preparing source material relating to a passage in this week's parsha followed by a shiur which I gave.  Maariv came next, followed by a raffle, food for the boys and a late night game of basketball.

Here's a glimpse into what it looked and sounded like:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

C21: Jewish Week Article

Much of the rationale which went into the launch of our C21 project is laid out in the article which I wrote for the New York Jewish Week several months ago, but which is just now being published as part of their special Education edition.  
You can read the full text of the article here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PTA Back to School BBQ

Once again we ushered in the new year with our PTA's Back to School Barbecue.  It was great to see lots of old faces mixed with many new ones, as everyone enjoyed a relaxing evening with friends and family.

The High Schools Are Off and Running

Bolstered by the addition of fantastic new faculty members,  new students from nine different states (Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin), and a giant infusion of educational technology, I dare say both high schools are off to their strongest start of the past five years.  It's not just enrollment which is up (higher than it's been in at least a decade, if not more), but enthusiasm, energy, and excitement as well.

Here are some pictures of the first few days:

Goldie Margolin School for Girls:

Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Welcome Back!

There are few things as exciting as the first day of school...and today was no exception.  There were smiling faces everywhere, some familiar and some new.  Classrooms were filled with energized teachers and enthusiastic children and the sounds of learning percolated throughout the halls.  

Here are some of the sights and sounds for you to enjoy:

Second Grade with Morah Yehudit:

C21: The First Few Days

Laura Malbogat arrived in Memphis on Sunday to help us kick off our new Curriculum21 initiative.  She started by meeting with our admin team on Sunday night to give us her assessment of the considerable preparatory materials which we had provided her, to tell us what it said about where we were as a school, and to brainstorm with us as to what our first few steps ought to be.

On Monday, the project had its official launch with a three hour session in which Laura introduced herself to our faculty, masterfully set their minds at ease by insisting that we'd "go slow" and that each staff member would get individualized attention aimed at nurturing their growth as a 21st century educator at their own rate and from wherever it was they were starting.  She then reinforced the case for 21st century learning, which we have been discussing as a faculty now for over a year, through showing and discussing Ken Robinson's animated TED talk entitled "Changing Education Paradigms."  Lastly, she segued into a an activity focused on the creation of Essential Questions, which she told the faculty would be our entry point into the process of creating 21st century curricula.

Later in the day she spent some time meeting with our Early Childhood faculty and with our Lower School faculty with whom she further developed the concept of Essential Questions and challenged them to apply it to one unit plan from their own classes.  Today, she spent the entire day meeting one-on-one with those Lower School faculty members to talk about the lesson they had begun to upgrade yesterday, focus on areas that were challenging for them, and leave them "an assignment" to work on in anticipation of her next extended site visit in late October.

These next few days she'll shift her focus to the Upper School faculty, both General Studies and Judaic Studies, while also taking some time to observe some of our Lower School faculty in action.  We'll then take stock of what we've accomplished in our initial stage and create a plan for maintaining the momentum of faculty and administrator growth, risk-taking, and exploration until she comes to work with us again immediately after the chagim.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Road to 21st Century Learning

As many of you know, with the generous support of the AviChai Foundation, we have embarked upon a school-wide initiative aimed at creating and implementing a written yet flexible, standards-based, inquiry-driven, differentiated curriculum for all disciplines, PreK-12, in which 21st century skills for both General and Judaic studies are explicitly taught through the core curricular areas.  Leading us through what will undoubtedly be a multi-year process is Ms. Laura Malbogat, a wonderful educational consultant from Montreal with significant experience and expertise both in curriculum development and in 21st century learning.

Therefore, in addition to my regular posts about events and accomplishments around school, I'll be using the blog this year to update you on the progress we're making toward this particular goal.  I'll share pictures and video clips, resources we're exploring, and projects our faculty will be working on.  Each post about this initiative will start with "C21," short hand for Heidi Hayes Jacob's Curriculum21, the book - and now the organization - which provided the initial inspiration for this undertaking. 

Please feel free to comment and to contribute to the conversation as we intend for this to be a collaborative project in which we will be learning from many different people and many different sources, and perhaps others will learn from us as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Facebook and Time Warner join to stop cyber bullying - School Leadership 2.0

Facebook and Time Warner join to stop cyber bullying - School Leadership 2.0

A new partnership between Facebook and Time Warner aims to expand the companies’ individual efforts to prevent online bullying. The initiative, called “Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” will combine broadcast, print, online, and social media outlets to get parents, teachers, and youth speaking about cyber bullying prevention.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of the people [who] use our site,” said Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications at Facebook. “Online safety is a responsibility shared among parents, teachers, teens, policy makers, and services like Facebook.”

(Click link above to read more)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vote For Our New Logo

We've designed several new options for our school logo and want your input on which one to use! Visit our school homepage to cast your vote.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Invention Convention

Here is a message our fantastic art teacher, Mrs. Chany Fleishhacker,about the Invention Convention she ran earlier this week for our 6th grade.  Much of the talk today about 21st century skills focuses on the importance of nurturing creativity and out-of-the-box thinking within our core curriculum.  It doesn't get more creative or more out-of-the-box than this...

Dear Parents,

Today the 6th grade art students gathered together for our annual Leonardo Da Vinci Invention Convention. This convention was the culmination of a long term art project that our artists have been working on for most of the spring semester.
The project began with a brief introduction to history of Leonardo’s invention ideas. We all of course know about his Mona Lisa, but many of our students were surprised to find out that he was the father of many of the modern conveniences that we use today. Leonardo was a dreamer. Though the technology and materials were not available during his time to bring many of his dreams to fruition; the meticulous notes and diagrams that he made in his journals have helped the scientists and inventors of later generations make those dreams come true. (For example, the Write Brothers’ first flying machine was based on his design).
The students were divided up into teams and each team had to come up with a proposal for an invention that would make life easier and/or more fun. Upon approval of their proposal each team received some class cash to spend on the supplies that they needed to build their scale model and create some promotional material to advertise their product.
I am so impressed with the ideas that hatched out of our students’ minds. Today each team presented their idea in front of a panel of judges along with their promotional material. The judges had a hard time making their decisions. The results were very close. (The winners won by 1 ½ points!). Congratulations to Noga Finkelstein and Rena Osdoba on their SMILE machine. Special thanks to Cindy Massey and Charna Schubert for their help with the judging.
Please follow the link below and watch the video of our young inventors hard at work. I know you’ll be impressed with what you see: http://chanyfleischhacker.blogspot.com/
Have a great summer,
Morah Chany

Girls Capture 2nd Place in City-Wide Writing Contest

The anxiety was building as Girls High School Principal Mrs. Anat Kampf, High School English teacher Mrs. Abby Johnson, 12th graders Shoshana Somer and Molly Brakha, their families, and I listened to the announcements of the winners of Bnai Brith's Diverse Minds Writing Challenge downtown at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Before making the announcement, the director of the program informed the crowd that they had received at least one submission for the contest, a challenge that asked high school student to write and illustrate a children's book about tolerance and diversity, from every high school in Shelby County. Only the authors of the five submissions which a team of expert judges deemed best, were invited to the program at the Civil Rights Museum.

After her introduction she began by announcing the two Honorable Mentions: a pair of girls from St. Mary's Episcopal School and a girl from White Station High School.  Then she announced the third place winner, who would take home a $1000 college scholarship: it was two boys from Germantown High School.  Smiles then flashed across the faces of our entire contingency.  No matter what happened next, the girls from our tiny little high school had just beat out students from the biggest and most well-regarded private and public high schools in our city.

Molly and Shoshana were called next and went up to receive their $2000 college scholarship.  Though 1st place came with the additional bonus of having the book published by Bnai Brith, our girls realized rather quickly that the accolades their book received meant it might be worth exploring other publishing options.   So don't be surprised if in a few months, while walking through the children's section of your favorite book store or browsing on Amazon, you notice a book called the World of Color, written by Molly Brakha and illustrated by Shoshana Somer.  If you do, buy it.  It's well worth a read.

Pictures from Kindergarten Graduation

I apologize for the delay, but here is a link to the all the pictures from Kindergarten graduation. As all those who were there will attest, the kids were simply spectacular.  From an educational standpoint, though, what it made it all the more impressive is that the overwhelming majority of the performance was simply a reflection of material the children had learned over the course of the year, rather than new material learned just for the purposes of putting on a show.  Borrowing from the terminology of the Tal Am program, we would call this a chagigat ha-nilmad - a celebration of what they have learned, rather than learning for a celebration - par excellence.

Thank you Morah Michelle, Miss Katie, Miss Cathleen, Moreh Shimshon, and Miss Charna for all your hard work!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kindergarten Graduation Slideshow

Here's the slideshow we showed at our Kindergarten Graduation.  Pictures from the graduation will be up soon.  Mazal tov to all our graduates!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Israel Festival and Color War

Even as the year winds down, things don't get any less exciting here at the Academy.  This weekend was a perfect example.  The festivities started on Friday afternoon with a fairly successful Color War fakeout, followed by a much anticipated Color War breakout for grades 1-8.  On Sunday our lower grades, under the direction of Mrs. Leba Kugielsky, performed at the rain-soaked Israel Festival sponsored by the Memphis Friends of Israel.  On Monday the fun continued with a full day of Color War activities between teams Gevurah (strength) and Chochmah (wisdom) culminating with banner, skit, cheer, and song presentations from each team.  It was a fell fought battle by both teams, but when all was said and done team Chochmah won with the slightest of margins.

Below are pictures from both events:

Monday, May 16, 2011

12th Grader Wins Flatow Scholarship

On April 9th, 1995, 20 year-old Alisa Flatow was killed in a terrorist attack outside of Kfar Darom during a year of study abroad in Israel.  To preserve her memory and to enable others to do what she had been doing when her life was tragically cut short, the Alisa Flatow Scholarship Fund was created to provide scholarships "on a limited and competitive basis" for full time religious study in Israel to students "showing academic promise in their religious studies."

In each of the past three years, only five such scholarships have been awarded from a pool of over 250 applicants nationwide.  Yet in each of the past three years, one of those five winners has been a student from our high school.

We are most proud to announce that this year Mendel Osdoba has been awarded the Alisa Flatow Scholarship. Undoubtedly a major factor in the decision was the powerful essay which Mendel wrote about what the ability to spend a year in Israel would mean to him. Here is just a brief a citation:

Learning Torah in Israel after high school has always been a dream of mine; learning in Eretz Hakodesh would also fulfill one of my father’s deepest wishes. I vividly remember the somberness and solemnity that enveloped all who stood in the airport hangar as my father’s body was loaded onto the airplane. The entire community, especially my family, though faced with the painful task of saying goodbye to a beloved husband, father, and friend, understood that my father’s final resting place was exactly where he longed to be. My head spun as fast as the plane’s propellers from the turbulence I had just encountered, yet I was calmed by the fact that my father was on a voyage to the place he coveted most, the land of Israel. Attending yeshiva in the Holy Land would not only make it possible for me to visit my father’s grave for the very first time, but moreover it would allow me with the good fortune of connecting to him on an elevated spiritual level. I fervently believe that going to Israel next year would help bring closure to the childhood tragedy that has permeated my life since I was eight years old.  

You can find the essay in its entirety here.  It is well worth reading.

Mazal tov to Mendel and we look forward to hearing great things from him next year and for many years to come!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Brother and Sister to Headline Graduation

For the first time in our 62 year history (or at least in so far as anyone I spoke to can remember), our high school graduation addresses will be given by a brother-sister combination.

Valedictorian for the Yeshiva of the South Graduating Class of 2012 will by Maddie Tavin and Salutatorian will her brother, Jonathan.  Both of the Tavins will be heading to Israel for a year of study next year; Maddie to Shaalvim and Jonathan to Yeshivat Har Etzion.  Following their year abroad both Maddie and Jonathan will enter Yeshiva University's Honors Program, where both were awarded significant academic scholarships.

We look forward to hearing from them at graduation and to hearing about them for many years to come!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Students to Participate in NY Siyyum

As part of the new Masmidim Program instituted by Rabbi Noam Stein this year, 8th graders Avi Katz and Asher Finkelstein, as well as 9th graders Akiva Somer and Bentzy Kampf, and 12th grader Jonathan Tavin, have successfully completed mesechet Megilah.  The Masmidim Program, which is intended to provide opportunities to students for additional Torah study, works in conjunction with the Bronka Weintraub Bekius Program at Yeshiva University, which provides a framework and incentives for high school students across the country to engage in Talmud study beyond the classroom.  As part of that program, Yeshiva University is organizing a siyyum in New York this month, marking the completion of mesechet Megilah, for all of the students who participated and our boys will be flying up to New York to participate.

As those who have done so can attest, completing an entire mesechta of Gemara is no small feat.  For these boys to have done so outside the context of their regular classes is all the more impressive.  We therefore wish them a sincere mazal tov and yasher kochachem li-orayyta.  We're looking forward to many more such celebrations in the future!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

News Coverage

If you didn't catch it, today's Business Section of the Commercial Appeal mentioned Yosef - a.k.a. Jay - Gersten's award:

Local student honored
Memphian Jay D. Gersten, a senior at Margolin Hebrew Academy, has received a $1,000 scholarship from the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation.
Gersten is one of seven students across the state -- and the only one from West Tennessee -- chosen to receive the NFIB/Tennessee Leadership Council Young Entrepreneur Award, which promotes entrepreneurship among high schoolers.
"It's a challenge for anyone to start a business and keep it going," said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB. "These scholarship winners managed to start successful small businesses while keeping up with their classwork. They really are an inspiration to anyone who's ever thought of starting their own business."
Nationally, more than 4,500 students applied for the scholarships and 131 were awarded.


Now that Noga Finkelstein's book review has been published by Moment Magazine, I need to make a few corrections to my last post.  It turns out that there were six winners, not four.  However it also turns out that the submissions - and the winners - came from across the globe, not across the country.  Here is a list of the winners taken from their website:

  • Hannah Levine, 10 years old, 5th grade, Fair Lawn, NJ
  • Noga Finkelstein, 12 years old, 6th grade, Margolin Hebrew Academy, Memphis, TN
  • Chunchom Gonmei, 9 years old, St. Mary’s Montessori, Dimapur, India 
  • Samuel Farbman, 10 years old, 4th grade, Ezra Academy, Woodbridge, CT
  • Beatriz Maria Sofia C. Pangalangan, 13 years old, 7th grade, Pasig City, Manila, Philippines
  • Andrew Gary Walters, 9 years old, 3rd grade, Duncanville, TX

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

6th Grader Wins Publish-A-Kid Contest

This month's edition of Moment Magazine, North America's largest independent Jewish magazine, features a book review by our own 6th Grader, Noga Finkelstein. Her review of Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret was amongst many book reviews written by 9-13 year-olds across the country and entered into Moment's Publish-A-Kid writing contest.  The email which our fantastic 6th Grade General Studies teacher, Mrs. Cindy Massey, received from the magazine said that Noga's piece "was so wonderful and insightful that we had to share it with our readers."

As one of only four winners nationwide, not only does Noga become a published author, but her teacher wins a subscription to Moment Magazine and - best of all - her class wins a pizza party!  As of Wednesday, May 4th, the book review will be online at www.momentmag.com.  Be sure to read it and to let her know how much you enjoyed it!

GMSG Sweeps Writing Contest

The prowess of the high school English department was on full display this past Sunday, when the Memphis Jewish Federation announced the winners of its Holocaust Poetry and Essay contests.  Our girls pulled off a complete sweep of both categories.  Racheli Tsuna, Myrel Nechama Samuels, and Zehava Gersten took first, second, and third place respectively in the poetry section.  Naomi Samberg took the top prize in the essay contest and read her piece aloud at Sunday's community-wide Yom HaShoah commemoration.  She was followed by Ariana Kaufman in second place and Leah Flieschhacker in third.

Congratulation to all of them - and their teachers - for a job very well done!

Student Wins St. Jude Internship

Each year, students from across the region vie for the three highly coveted spots in the Summer for Sickle Cell Science Program at St. Jude's Children Hospital.  The students selected for the program spend their summer doing hands-on research in the laboratories at St. Jude's with some of the world's foremost experts in the field.  They are also charged with creating an altruistic "give-back" program to increase the quality of life for children with Sickle Cell Disease.

It gives us great pride to announce that 12th grader Sam Rapp has been selected for the program for this summer.  Following his summer of research, Sam will be attending the Honors Program at Yeshiva University where he will continue to be mentored by word-class academics and where he will be expected to continue his own sophisticated research.

We look forward to hearing more great things from Sam in the not-too-distant future!

Senior Wins NFIB Young Entrepreneur Award

The  National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation named 12th grader,Yosef Gersten, as a recipient of one of its 2011 NFIB Young Entrepreneur Awards.   The program, which awards between $1,000 and $10,000 scholarships to the award winners, is designed to reward and encourage entrepreneurial talents among high school students.  Those who know Yosef, whether through his Four Corners Video Production operation or any of his other assorted endeavors, know that he certainly fits the bill.

More than 4,500 students nationwide applied for a YEF scholarship this year and only 131 scholarships were awarded.   Of those, 7 were from the state of Tennessee and Yosef was the only winner from the city of Memphis.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

High School Debate

Tuesday of this week featured our second annual FYOS debate tournament pitting the boys debate team from the CYHSB against the the girls debate team from the GMSG.  Both teams have been preparing all year for this tournament through extensive research, planning, and practice debates amongst themselves.

The debate format we use is known as Policy Debate or Cross-Examination debate.  What separates CX Debate from the other popular form of high school debate known as Lincoln-Douglas Debate, is that in LD Debate, the debaters recieve a new topic every month whereas in CX debate there is one topic for the year debated by all CX high school debaters throughout the country.  This year's topic, or resolved as it is known, was "That the United States Federal Government should substantially reduce its miliatry and / or police presence in one or more of the following countries:  Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Turkey, South Korea, or Japan."  As you can imagine, recent events in both Japan and the Middle East made the topic incredibly relevant and required that our debaters stay on top of the news at all times.

Tuesday's tournament featured three rounds of three debates each, followed by a final round in which the highest scoring boys team faced off against the highest scoring girls team in front of both schools as well as parents who wanted to attend.  All of the debates were judged by adults with knowledge of the field, including several who are active or retired US millitary.

As any of the judges will attest, our kids - both boys and girls - were phenomenal.  They demonstrated deep knowledge of the subject area, strong rhetorical skills, and the ability to think critically on their feet.  At the end of the day, though, this year's bragging rights belong to the GMSG.  With a record of 8-2, they captured all three of the top team awards and two of the three speaker awards. 

The boys, though, are hungry to get even. And, with all eight members of their team poised to return again next year, they are sure to give the girls a run for their money.

Click here for all of the pictures and video clips from the event. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GMSG Dinner

This past Sunday the Girls High School held their annual tribute dinner honoring Rabbi Yonason and Mrs. Sandy Gersten for their 25 years of service and dedication to our school.  The high school girls, who plan, promote, and execute the lavish affair in its entirety, brought in a record-breaking crowd from across the community all of whom were treated to a delectable meal and a moving tribute to two very special educators.

See below for a slideshow from the event.  For individual pictures, click here